My Week At Chocolate Boot Camp — Day 4

It’s day 4, the last day of Choco­late Boot Camp. (Most Choco­late Acad­e­my cours­es are three days long, but this is a four-day course, because there’s so much mate­r­i­al to cov­er. Click here to read the report on Day 1 and Days 2 and 3.)

Today we need to fin­ish every­thing, and there’s a lot to finish!

But first we have to make the choco­late marshmallow.

Marsh­mal­low is made from sug­ar syrup, egg whites and gelatin, and it has a lot in com­mon with meringue. The egg whites need to be at room tem­per­a­ture (or per­haps slight­ly above) to devel­op full vol­ume, and any fat will keep the egg whites from whip­ping properly.

Alert read­ers should be say­ing, “Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t there fat in choco­late?” Yes, there is, and when we get around to adding the choco­late it is going to deflate the marsh­mal­low some­what. (I think the East­er can­dy mak­ers get around that by adding air as they fill their choco­lates with marsh­mal­low, but as with many foods, what hap­pens in a small batch oper­a­tion, like your friend­ly neigh­bor­hood choco­lati­er or home kitchen, and what hap­pens in mass pro­duc­tion facil­i­ties often have lit­tle in common.)

When I have made marsh­mal­low, I gen­er­al­ly used the recipe in the Pope New Can­dy Cook­book. (Long out of print, but con­sid­ered a clas­sic, I’ve seen copies sell­ing for sev­er­al hun­dred dol­lars, but you can often find it for a lot less online! The Fran­cois and Antoinette Pope cook­ing school was in Chica­go from 1930 until it closed in 1971. See Chica­go Tri­bune sto­ry.)

The Pope recipe has you add the hot sug­ar syrup slow­ly to the egg whites, then add the bloomed gelatin.

That’s not how Chef Russ does it, though. (Does that seem like a recur­ring theme in this series?) He adds the bloomed gelatin to the hot sug­ar syrup, then pours that over the par­tial­ly whipped egg whites. After the marsh­mal­low is blend­ed, the choco­late is warmed and stirred into the marsh­mal­low, which, as expect­ed, most­ly deflates the whipped egg whites.

As he’s scrap­ing the bowl with some ingre­di­ent in it, Chef says that one of the chefs he worked for called this ‘Cadil­lac­ing’ the bowl. He says, “If you do this for your entire cook­ing career, you’ll have saved enough to buy a Cadillac.”

The choco­late marsh­mal­low is piped into larg­er hemi­spher­i­cal shells that were made earlier.

Piping Chocolate Marshmallow

We’re going to cov­er these with a chablon, a thin lay­er of choco­late cut with a round cut­ter to fit in the shell. This will make them eas­i­er to deal with when we dip them.


There are a num­ber of can­dies we made that I’m not going to dis­cuss, but I do want to talk about the almond rocher. Caramelized almond sliv­ers are mixed with milk choco­late, shaped, driz­zled with a lit­tle dark choco­late, and light­ly dust­ed with a non-melt­ing sug­ar. This is prob­a­bly the first of the can­dies we made in class that I’m going to make at home, they were incred­i­ble. I’ve made almond tof­fee can­dies (sim­i­lar to Almond Roca), this is com­plete­ly different.

Almond Rocher

This is also a good time to talk about one of the more counter-intu­tive things about work­ing with choco­late. The more fat (cocoa but­ter) you have in choco­late, the eas­i­er it will be to work with while warm, because warm fat is very flu­id. But remem­ber that cocoa but­ter is a sol­id at room tem­per­a­ture, so when the choco­late cools, the more cocoa but­ter in it, the hard­er the fin­ished choco­late will be. So the choco­late you choose to use can make a big dif­fer­ence in the prod­ucts you make.

This may explain a lot of the mixed results I’ve had mak­ing can­dies with choco­late in them over the years. I know I’ll be a lot more care­ful in choos­ing what kind of choco­late I buy from now on.

When you buy a (dark) choco­late bar at the store, it will often proud­ly say how much cacao con­tent it has. What it gen­er­al­ly won’t say is how much of that cacao con­tent is cocoa solids and how much of it is cocoa but­ter. That’s a major dif­fer­ence between buy­ing retail choco­late and buy­ing choco­late intend­ed for con­fec­tionery use, the bet­ter man­u­fac­tur­ers (includ­ing, ahem, Calle­baut and Cacao Bar­ry) will clear­ly label their prod­ucts to show how much cocoa but­ter and how much cocoa solids they con­tain. Bar­ry Calle­baut prod­ucts also use a one-to-five drop scale to indi­cate how sol­id the choco­late will be, which is eas­i­er than doing the math.

One of the can­dies we made was a lemon ganache in yel­low eggs with white speck­les on them. When we sam­pled the left-over ganache, we fin­ished this one, it reminds me of a lemon curd.


Chef Russ and his intern/assistant, Ter­ri, work togeth­er to put the wings on the bats before they are spray painted.

Putting wings on bats

Chef says that if he was try­ing to make these by him­self, he’d either change the design to make them eas­i­er to assem­ble or he’d have them lay­ing on the table for attach­ing the wings. I’m going to try a vari­ant on that to see if I can repair the one I brought home that broke.

Here are the assem­bled and paint­ed bats:


These are sim­ple dis­play pieces, but there are sev­er­al exam­ples of more com­pli­cat­ed pieces from a recent course on mak­ing show­pieces on dis­play in the Choco­late Acad­e­my din­ing area:

Chocolate Showpieces
Chocolate Elephant

Lunch at the Choco­late Acad­e­my was pret­ty good every day. The meals were catered in, but I think the desserts were made by the pas­try chefs on staff. Here’s a shot of the desserts we had today:

Desserts at Lunch

Some days the desserts were so pret­ty it was a shame to have to cut them.

With lunch over, we’re into the final push to assem­ble every­thing. All the choco­lates that we have piped have to be closed. Most are fin­ished by pip­ing a lay­er of choco­late on them, that will become the bot­tom. Some of them get cov­ered with a thin acetate sheet to make for a smooth fin­ish, oth­ers get a trans­fer sheet put on them. These are dis­played with the smooth or print­ed side up. The trans­fer sheets have cocoa but­ter with designs or mes­sages on them, some have the Calle­baut logo on them, for example.

The marsh­mal­lows are dipped, and we all get a tray of cut ganache pieces to dip. My skill on this has­n’t improved since Mon­day, lots of them still fall off. In an hour, I’m able to make 29 of them, prob­a­bly half of which fell off the fork, but some of my fel­low stu­dents only made a few more than I did, so I don’t feel too bad. But I’m nev­er going to become a choco­lati­er mil­lion­aire at this rate!

My dipped chocolates

While we’re dip­ping choco­lates, Chef Russ and Ter­ri are busy putting togeth­er the buf­fet table, with the mold­ed pieces he’s made over then last sev­er­al days plus sam­ples of all our wares, includ­ing a few of my admit­ted­ly poor­ly-dipped chocolates.

Buffet Table 1

Buffet Table 2

Buffet Table 3

Buffet Table 4

Buffet Table 5

You can’t see it very well, but I think that’s my spi­der hid­ing under the dis­play board in the above pho­to. I made the legs too thin and they would­n’t attach right. I brought my spi­der home, but the legs broke off. I may try to make some new legs for it, but I think I can make a more real­is­tic spi­der by vary­ing the tech­nique a bit, that may be some­thing I prac­tice after my choco­late tem­per­ing pot arrives.

Buffet Table 6

Buffet Table 7

Buffet Table 8

I brought this pump­kin can­dy dish home, and it’s on my wife’s desk at work now. It’s so shiny peo­ple don’t think it’s com­plete­ly made of chocolate!

Buffet Table 9

Buffet Table 10

Buffet Table 11

We had a good class, and I enjoyed work­ing with my class­mates and the Choco­late Acad­e­my staff:

Group photo

And to fin­ish things off, here’s a shot of me get­ting my cer­tifi­cate from Chef Russ Thayer:

Nolan photo

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Published:October 16, 2016

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Home Forums My Week At Chocolate Boot Camp — Day 4

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    Mike Nolan

      It's day 4, the last day of Chocolate Boot Camp. (Most Chocolate Academy courses are three days long, but this is a four-day course, because there's so much material to cover. Click here to read the r
      [See the full post at: My Week At Chocolate Boot Camp - Day 4]

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        What an exciting adventure for you! I've been enjoying each of your posts and the last one is just outstandingly beautiful! The orange pumpkin is so is my favorite color and that pumpkin is so festive and awesome. Thanks for sharing your class with us!


          I'm impressed by how the creations look. I wish that I could taste them!

          Mike: Consider doing a postscript blog when you try some of these chocolate techniques at home.

          Mike Nolan

            I don't have the varieties of chocolate and many of the other ingredients we used in class (like the yummy white-chocolate covered freeze-dried strawberries), but my chocolate tempering pot came this afternoon and I'm starting to plan for a chocolate session soon. I do plan to take photos. (I'll have a better camera, too, I didn't take my Canon T6I DSLR to Chicago, just the Nikon Coolpix, which fits in a shirt pocket.)

            The real challenge may be scaling some of the ganache recipes down to a size I can make (and use) at home. (The good news is ganache keeps for about two weeks and can be reheated.)

            I'm going to try to repair the bat and either make new legs for my spider or start from scratch and see if I can make a more realistic looking one.


              You have a good cooking project for the winter months after you retire. Of course, after your course, you're going to want to delve right into it. Nevertheless, chocolate sounds like wintertime fun.

              Mike Nolan

                I got started making the almond rocher last night, boil almond slivers in a sugar solution for 2 minutes then toast them in the oven until they caramelize.

                They're delicious before I even add the chocolate! I'm making two small test batches, one with some milk chocolate and one with Ghiradelli chocolate coating (not a true milk chocolate, as it has palm kernel oil instead of cocoa butter.) I think the Ghiradelli coating tastes funny by itself, but I tried a taste of the leftovers in the bowl after making a small batch of 'haystacks' and it tasted pretty good.

                Mike Nolan

                  Sadly, the bat was not repairable, the wings kept falling off. But it was still tasty, even though the spray painted black cocoa butter tries to come off on my fingers.

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